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Is the bigot-fighting Southern Poverty Law Center the REAL hate group? One Men’s Rights butthead says “yes.”

Is the Klan-fighting Southern Poverty Law Center the real hate group? One angry butthead says
Hey, Dean Esmay — are these really the guys you want on your side?

The not-so-good folks at A Voice for Men are still so steamed about the Southern Poverty Law Center calling them out on their misogyny that they can’t think straight. Consider the unhinged anti-SPLC rant AVFM’s “chief operations officer” Dean Esmay posted on the site after the SPLC’s Mark Potok appeared on David Pakman’s internet show last week.

In his interview with Pakman, posted below, Potok acknowledged once again that the SPLC had not named any Men’s Rights website a “hate group.” But he also made clear that the SPLC doesn’t list any website as a “hate group” — not even the viciously racist and anti-Semitic Stormfront — because to be a hate group you need to be, well, a group, and not a website.

In fact, as Potok told Pakman, he’s seen “an incredible amount of misogyny, an incredible amount of defamation of women” in the Manosphere. “The websites are filled with incredible vitriol,” he added.

Just to give an example to our listeners, Paul Elam, the guy who runs A Voice for Men, and who is considered in many ways the leader of this anti-woman movement, for a long time had a website called … [which] was a vile site that put up pictures, sometimes personal information … of various enemies of the Men’s Rights movement.

Some of those people are feminists, some of those people are women [like] Lorena Bobbitt — ok, she wasn’t very friendly to men — but an enormous number are simply women who in some way identify as feminist, who some way have offended the men in the Men’s Rights movement, women who are guilty of no crime, and yet this website said these women should be prosecuted, they should be in jail.

And there’s a huge amount of harassment, internet harassment of women who … say something publicly about feminism or sexism or misogyny. 

He’s not quite right on one detail here; AVFM didn’t actually end up putting any personal information — at least in the form of addresses, phone numbers and the like — on Register-Her. Elam just threatened to, repeatedly, and offered thousand-dollar bounties to those who were able to deliver the personal info of some women the AVFMers were unable to track down. But the rest is of course correct.

Potok noted that in his view “there are absolutely legitimate beefs that men have,” including bias towards women in family courts. “That said,” he continued,

I would say that legitimate complaints are very much the minority of what you see on these websites. Most of it is just untrammeled hatred directed at women.

He also brought up the Philosophy of Rape subreddit, devoted to the “corrective rape” of “harlots” (I wrote about it here) and the rabidly antifeminist and anti-woman mass murderers Marc Lepine and Elliot Rodger.

Well, Potok’s appearance on the show seems to have sent Esmay over the edge. In his AVFM post, he declared Potok, a “sociopathic, reactionary bigot,” a “rich fatcat tool of the corporate establishment,” and (somewhat redundantly) “a fatcat corporate weasel who just happens to dress a little like an old hippie.” He also described Potok as a “snake … in Dockers,” which is odd, because neither snakes nor old hippies are known to favor khakis.

Esmay wants the world to know (he’s got to let it show):

I want the world to know I have said this, and I mean it: the Southern Poverty Law Center is a multimillion $$ fraud organization that makes its money by spreading fear and hate and ignorance – mostly in the form of slanted half-truths- about innocent people who can’t fight back.

This is a rather, well, interesting take on the noted civil rights organization. If you look on the SPLC website, to be sure, you will find quite a number of “innocent people who can’t fight back,” among them:

Migrant farmworker Victor Marquez [who] was traveling to his hometown in Querétero, Mexico, to pay for his new home, only to have his life savings seized by police who alleged it was drug money.

Guest workers from India, lured by false promises of permanent U.S. residency, paid tens of thousands of dollars each to obtain temporary jobs at Gulf Coast shipyards only to find themselves forced into involuntary servitude and living in overcrowded, guarded labor camps.

There’s just one problem with Esmay’s analysis: the SPLC didn’t spread “fear and hate and ignorance” and/or “slanted half-truths” about these men. It filed lawsuits on their behalf.

The SPLC got the State of Alabama to return the $19,000 that Victor Marquez has earned not from selling drugs but from picking beans. In the case of the Indian guest workers, SPLC’s federal lawsuit forced Signal International to cough up $14 million in damages to five men the company had duped and exploited.

Indeed, if you look through the lawsuits listed on the SPLC website, you will see example after example of the group working on behalf of, well, “innocent people who can’t fight back,” from trans men facing discrimination on the job to prisoners (adult and juvenile) enduring horrific conditions and abuse to guest workers getting ripped off by their employers to immigrants denied marriage licenses to lesbian, gay and transgender youth facing bullying at school.

The SPLC has been famously successful in a number of cases, not only providing justice to people who wouldn’t have otherwise had the resources to bring cases on their own but also helping to eradicate unjust and illegal practices. In Austin V. Jones and  Hope v. Pelzer, for example, the SPLC not only assisted abused prisoners seeking redress but brought the end of “hitching posts” and chain gangs in the Alabama prison system.

The SPLC has also, as an article on the site points out,

crippled some of the nation’s largest and most violent hate groups by helping victims of racial violence sue for monetary damages. Its victories include a $7 million verdict against the United Klans of America in 1987 for the lynching of Michael Donald in Mobile, Ala.; a $12.4 million verdict against the White Aryan Resistance in 1990 for the brutal murder of an Ethiopian student in Portland; and a $6.3 million verdict against the Aryan Nations in 2000 that forced the organization to give up its 20-acre compound in Idaho.

And in Macedonia v. Christian Knights of the Ku Klux Klan,

The Christian Knights of the KKK, its state leader, and four other Klansmen were ordered to pay $37.8 million, later reduced by a judge to $21.5 million, for their conspiracy to burn a black church.

The civil judgment forced the Klan to give up its land and headquarters. When the property was sold, the deed included a restriction that the land never be used for white supremacist activities.

The judgment in this case transformed the Christian Knights from one of the most active Klan groups in the nation to a defunct organization.

So who exactly are these “innocent people” who Esmay thinks the SPLC is tarring with “slanted half-truths?” Esmay gets a little more specific later on in his rant, accusing the SPLC of

instigating spin and slander indiscriminately against anyone who might deviate somewhat from mainstream opinion (or just opinions not liked by the elites who rule us).

Esmay doesn’t provide any actual examples of these allegedly “slandered” people he thinks have been unfairly targeted by the SPLC because their thoughts “deviate somewhat from mainstream opinion”  — perhaps because, if he were to actually start listing any of the extremists that the SPLC tracks, it would quickly become obvious that their opinions are, not to put to fine a point on it, hateful as shit.

Here’s a list of the various kinds of hate groups and individuals that the SPLC tracks:

  • Anti-Immigrant
  • Anti-LGBT
  • Anti-Muslim
  • Black Separatist
  • Christian Identity
  • Holocaust Denial
  • Ku Klux Klan
  • Neo-Confederate
  • Neo-Nazi
  • Patriot Movement
  • Phineas Priesthood
  • Racist Music
  • Racist Skinhead
  • Radical Traditional Catholicism
  • Sovereign Citizens Movement
  • White Nationalist

Most of these categories are pretty self-explanatory. But in case you haven’t been following the ins and the outs of the American far right over the past several decades: “Christian Identity” is a violently racist, anti-Semitic and only “nominally Christian” ideology that arose in the 1980s; “Neo-Confederates” are fans of the old south, slavery and all, and not big fans of democracy or gay people; the “Patriot Movement” is an antigovernment movement of mostly white dudes suffused with racism, nativism and a love of guns; “Radical Traditional Catholicism” is a rabidly anti-Semitic splinter sect “rejected by the Vatican and some 70 million mainstream American Catholics” but embraced by Mel Gibson and his dad. “Sovereign Citizens” are a sort of Time-Cubed band of tax protesters, some of whom are white and racist as fuck, and some whom are black and “unaware of their beliefs’ origins.”

Yeah, the Sovereign Citizen thing is weird.

I hadn’t heard of the Phineas Priesthood myself. Evidently it’s a term white supremacists use to describe those who’ve murdered interracial couples or otherwise violently attacked “Jews, non-whites, multiculturalists and others seen as enemies.”

Huh. It’s funny, but I’m not seeing a lot of good-but-misunderstood souls on this list.

Now remember: Esmay doesn’t just think that the SPLC has wrongly included a few non-hateful folks (like, presumably, him) alongside real extremists in its “extremist files.”

Esmay, as he so proudly “want[s] the world to know I have said,” is accusing the SPLC of being “a multimillion $$ fraud organization that makes its money by spreading fear and hate and ignorance.” And he thinks that most of this alleged “fear and hate and ignorance” comes “in the form of slanted half-truths- about innocent people who can’t fight back.”

So either Esmay honestly thinks that most of those on the SPLC’s big list of bigots aren’t actually bigots at all — thus aligning himself with some of the most hateful shits in the known universe — or he’s deliberately lying about an organization that has done more to help “innocent people who can’t fight back” than his foul website could do in a million billion years (and that’s only if we ignore all the bad that the website does that puts its moral balance sheet perpetually in the red).

Actually, that’s not really fair to Esmay. It’s possible that he’s neither a secret Nazi nor a compulsive liar but rather an over-excitable ideological hack who simply has no fucking idea what he’s talking about.

This is hardly the end of Esmay’s false accusations against the SPLC. He continues his absurdities by claiming that the SPLC is a “contemptible terrorist-inspiring organization” that “has helped incite murder.” Esmay’s “evidence” for this assertion?  A blog post by a right-wing ideologue that links to a story in the right-wing Weekly Standard that sort of half-suggests that the SPLC may have half-inspired the murder of three Muslim students in Chapel Hill, North Carolina … because the accused killer “liked” the SPLC on Facebook.

Esmay might have had a point here if the SPLC were, you know, an organization that devoted all of its energy to inciting hate and violence against Muslims.

Trouble is, as you may recall from earlier, the SPLC is quite explicitly opposed to anti-Muslim bigotry; indeed, the group has profiled a number of prominent Muslim-haters and includes some two dozen “Active Anti-Muslim Groups” in its database of hate groups. Wherever the accused killer in Chapel Hill learned his anti-Muslim hate — and there is certainly no shortage of places he could have — it wasn’t on the SPLC Facebook page.

Should I bother to point out that the misogynistic mass murderer Elliot Rodger was a regular commenter on PUAhate, a site soaked in misogyny — and whose most famous moderator at the time was a fellow who goes by the name of Aaron Sleazy? You know, the same Aaron Sleazy who, under his real name Jalon Cain, wrote 10 articles for A Voice for Men? (His final article there: a bizarre attempt to blame Rodger’s killings on “gynocentrism” that somehow neglects to mention his own role at PUAhate.)

Esmay is not only dead wrong about the big issues; he throws in some little white lies as well. Upset that Pakman didn’t hit him up for the alleged truth about the SPLC before bringing Potok on his show, Esmay complains that

Pakman has not so much as approached us to comment before allowing the odious hate group known as the SPLC bash the innocent men and women of the Men’s Human Rights Movement, who are incredibly easy to find and talk to (me and Paul can be reached right here).

Well, there are few lies there, but it’s the last one that gets me. You know, the one about Esmay and his boss Paul Elam being “incredibly easy to find and talk to.”

The other day, as some of you may know, I tried to contact Elam and Esmay to point out that they had published a number of posts by a literal Holocaust denier and Hitler fan on AVFM and ask them what they intended to do about this.

Elam blocked me on Twitter, making clear he wasn’t taking any questions from me. And the “incredibly easy to … talk to” Esmay sent me this nice note:

Dean Esmay 10:50 AM (8 hours ago) to me Never write me again, Mr. Futrelle. Your desperate desire to hold onto your own relevance is not of interest to me. Publish what you will, everyone sane knows you're a professional liar who gets his money on the backs of the bruised and helpless, like a socipathic sadist. If you write me again I will contact the police. Stay away, stalker madman.

At the time I assumed that Esmay was playing a bit of the old “kill the messenger” game in an attempt to avoid dealing with the fact that the site he’s the “managing editor” of had, you know, published a number of posts by a literal Holocaust denier and Hitler fan.

But maybe I was too kind. Could it be that Esmay thinks that Holocaust-denial and Hitler-love are just examples of slight “deviat[ions] … from mainstream opinion (or just opinions not liked by the elites who rule us)” that are so unfairly judged by big meanies like the SPLC?

Mr. Esmay, on the off-chance you are still open to questions: Is Holocaust denial one of those “Men’ Human Rights” that AVFM likes to talk so much about?

And if I may be allowed a followup: What do you have against Dockers, anyway?

I guess we’ll never know, because the chance that Esmay will respond to these questions or this post, if he does at all, with anything even approaching honesty or logic or even correct grammar is pretty damn slim.

Here’s the Pakman interview with Potok:

Oh, wait, that was actually a Dockers commercial from 1988. Here’s the real interview.

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7 years ago

This becomes even more transparent considering the fact that just a few days ago they were banning people for expressing the same opinions in the comment section that they now say they agreed with all along. They really suck at everything, don’t they?

7 years ago

Also a lot of people here aren’t American and really, especially don’t give a shit if he identifies as a Democrat.

As a Briton, I find the Republican/Democrat distinction is fairly meaningless. In a great many areas (including most headline ones), the Democrats are well to the right of Britain’s Conservatives – just not quite as far right as the Republicans, who are more like the UK Independence Party.

I’d certainly be disappointed if Esmay was affiliated to a US equivalent of the Labour Party or the Greens, or anything else with pretensions towards social justice – but if he’s essentially a Tory or Ukipper as far as my own political spectrum is concerned, the only response I can muster is a bored shrug.

7 years ago

I just donated to the SPLC. Never heard of them before (I’m a UK reader) and I loved your writeup of what they do.

The Invisible Empire of the Klu Klux Klan
The Invisible Empire of the Klu Klux Klan
7 years ago

We don´t want these misogynistic, childish fedora-wearer on our side either.

7 years ago

David Futrelle,

I really admire Mark Potok!

7 years ago

Will Rogers, late American humorist: “I don’t belong to an organized political party; I’m a Democrat.”

Political culture in the USA looks strange to almost everyone else in the world, from what I’ve read. Just for example, how many countries have multiple military bases in other countries? How long would a USA politician last if ze suggested, “Hey, how about only having our military in our own country?” American Exceptionalism is a hell of a drug.

7 years ago

Well written piece, David.

For some reason, I want to like Dean Esmay. For obvious reasons, I cannot. Every time I start to think there might be hope for him… this kind of shit happens.

@Robert U.S. politics baffle me, and I’m used to them (being Canadian and getting your news all the time).

7 years ago

I think they are just pissed because they were called out for the rotten behaviour. And like the childish bigots they are, responded with denial and projection. *rolls eyes* These MRAs are very predictable.

7 years ago

Someone probably already beat me to this, but if you believe in the work the SPLC is doing (and why wouldn’t you), don’t forget to slide them a couple bucks the next time you can. Good lawyers take big salary cuts to fight for justice, but even they have bills to pay.

Tabitha Wells
7 years ago

I’ve become a recent follower of this blog after being led here through a friend’s Facebook. I honestly can’t get enough of your posts. They’re informative, they’re solid and they’re well written.

I only became aware of the MRA about a year ago, when a member of it commented on my former blog urging me to ‘reconsider’ my feminist stance and directing me to Return Of Kings as a reference point to save my supposedly terrible marriage (our marriage is great). I spent days raging after reading it. Beyond the obviously flawed arguments in many of their pieces, it was purely insulting to me and my husband (according to them, my husband isn’t a man).

The more I read your blog posts and see the types of comments from Elam and Esmay, I just have to shake my head. They remind me greatly of a few redneck bigots I knew growing up.

Anyways, just wanted to comment to say that you’ve gained another avid reader, and I’m looking forward to continuing to follow your blog. Quite possibly the best blog I’ve found in a while.

Acid Kritana
5 months ago

Most MRAs are NOT hateful. Attack the hateful MRAs, but leave the rest of us alone.

Elaine The Witch
Elaine The Witch
5 months ago

Aww poor baby. You feel attacked? You must have the hardest life ever huh

5 months ago

@ Acid Kritana
Considering that you have your own blog, could you perhaps post your ideas about these older blog posts there? You could easily link to the relevant post, and the people who are interested in your thoughts would have an easier time to find them there.

I say this because I have a vague memory of noticing some thread from 2012 in the “recent comments” and quickly checking it out at work. If memory serves, it was a pretty long comment form you detailing some sort of a research plan. If I wanted to find it now, I’d have a devil of a time doing that. That makes it hard for me to see what you think you’re achieving with necroing stuff from years back.

Alan Robertshaw
5 months ago

You know, in a lot of countries, if you haven’t heard anything from someone for seven years then they’re declared legally dead. Maybe we should have the same rule for threads?

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